Summers are here and supermarkets are flooded with sunscreens, televisions are filled with advertising promoting sunscreens with a product having some edge over another. Let’s see how good is your sunscreen IQ?
Who should use sunscreen?
Many studies revealed an association of sunburns with enhanced risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that, regardless of skin type, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 should be used year-round. The broad spectrum includes protection against UVA and UVB rays.
UVA stands for Ultra Violet Aging rays and UVB stands for Ultra Violet Burning rays. Sun rays are source for both UVA and UVB rays. Excessive exposure to both forms of UV rays can lead to the development of skin cancer. UVA rays have less energy than UVB rays and penetrate deeper into the base layer of skin, causing damage to dermis.. UVA rays causes suppression of the immune system, thereby interferes with the immune system’s ability to protect against the development of skin cancer. Exposure to UVA rays lead to wrinkling and age spots, which are signs of premature aging of the skin. UVB rays are more powerful rays that affect the outer surface of the skin. UVB rays are majorly responsible for sunburns, we get when our skin is unprotected.
What does SPF mean?
SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor”. Most sunscreens specify SPF numbers on the packaging which range from as low as 2 to as high as 80. a SPF number measures the length of time, a product can screen or block out sun’s burning rays (UVB), compared to the time required for skin to redden without protection..
For example, if it took ½ hour for your skin to become sunburned without any sunscreen, then for a sunscreen that has a 15 SPF rating, you could stay in the sun for 15 times longer (i.e. 7.5 hours), before you get sunburned. However, sunscreen degrades (breaks down) by exposure to sunlight and rubs off with normal wear, so it needs to be reapplied at least every two hours.
Does use of SPF 30 provide me twice as much sun protection as SPF 15?
Absolutely not, the calculations are not that straight forward. Higher SPFs, such as an SPF 30, filters out 97 percent of UVB rays, whereas SPF 15 and SPF 2 filter 93 percent and 50 percent of UVB rays, respectively. Recent research suggests that high SPF sunscreens are an appropriate choice for individuals who are very sensitive to sun sensitive.
It is recommended to apply sunscreen every day to exposed skin, whether it is raining or shining. Don’t reserve sunscreen only for sunny days. You can get sunburn on a cloudy day as clouds don’t block the UV rays. Up to 80 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can pass through the clouds that cause sunburn. In addition, UV rays also reflected off of water, sand, snow, and concrete; and you can even get sunburn in the shade. Sand reflects 25 percent of the sun rays and snow reflects 80 percent of the sun rays. Therefore, to maximize protection, apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going outdoor and reapply every two hours, or sooner as needed.
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It is extremely important to apply enough amount of sunscreen on your skin. As a thumb rule, one ounce of sunscreen, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the amount needed to cover exposed areas properly. Research conducted by Department of Dermatology, Denmark on “SFP and its amount in-vivo study” showed that people often apply about a quarter of sunscreen of what they should use. By doing this, the protection they are actually getting, is never greater than provided by SPF3, even if they’re using sunscreen claiming SPF80. One can’t compensate for applying too thin a layer of sunscreen by using sunscreen with high SPF.
Does water resistant sunscreen provide complete protection against water?
No sunscreen is completely water or sweat resistant. Water resistant sunscreens may lose their effect after 80 minutes in the water. They rub off as well as wash off. Therefore, it is recommended to reapply waterproof sunscreen for continued protection.
Below are the sunscreens that best suits your skin:
- Meroxyl rich sunscreen – Protects your skin from immature wrinkles.
- A+ sunscreen – An ultra protection water based sunscreen that should be applied with moisturizer and foundation if you want protection against suntans.
- Body sunscreen – A long lasting lotion that prevents wrinkles, sagging and suntan in the full body.
- For dry skin – You can use sunscreen with SPF 30 that guards skin against aging and skin cancer.
- For oily skin – If you want oil free skin, use non-comedogenic sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher for better results.
- Facial sunscreens – The moisturizing day care sunscreen lotions and creams with SPF 15 and 30 are best for any type of facial skin types.
What should I look for while buying sunscreen?
Main considerations for choosing a sunscreen include but not limited to, are following:
- Select a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher: Broad-spectrum sunscreens provide coverage against both UVA and UVB rays. Main ingredients of a sunscreen that ensure broad-spectrum UV coverage include oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, avobenzone (Parsol 1789), ecamsule, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
- Select a sunscreen that is water resistant: Ideally, sunscreens should be water-resistant, so they should not be easily removed by sweating or swimming.
- Select a sunscreen that does not contain potential allergens: Some sunscreens contain fragrances, preservatives and other ingredients that can cause skin reactions.